November 7, 2009
One trait many touring cyclists share is that they are not fair weathered riders. Even in the most predictable of climates, predicting the weather can make fools of us all, and I've been in that camp many times over. While this can seem disheartening to some, you can always be prepared for the worst. Rain jackets, pants, booties, gloves, and pannier covers are all easy choices for protection, while fenders are often forgotten.
One argument against fenders is that with a full front and rear rack, most of the spray is deflected already. Another argument is that if it's already raining, you're going to be wet regardless of what you have on your bike. These are two very good points, and I can respect each of them.
For me, the biggest benefit brought by fenders is protection for your bike. There's no way around it, riding in the rain will result in a wet bike, however, there's a big difference between rain from above, and spray from below. Gritty and/or muddy water from the road or trail is brutal on your drivetrain. While fenders won't keep your bike spotless, they will greatly reduce the amount of gunk and grit that builds up on your chain, cassette, and derailleurs. Another added benefit with fenders is that once installed properly, they are one component of weather protection you don't have to worry about packing.
When buying fenders for your bike, there are a couple things you should look for. First off, full coverage fenders are ideal. These are fenders that encompass roughly the top half of your wheel, and will connect to your frame near the brakes and bottom bracket. You also want to take note of your tire size, as a fender made for skinny road tires will not be effective on large touring or mountain bike tires. One final key item to pay attention to is mounting hardware, which fixes the fender to your frame. Try and find a fender with a metal mounting parts, as it will be much more durable than plastic parts.
Some fenders I have had luck with in the past include Plant Bike Cascadia and SKS City fenders. If you want to spice your bike up with some class, check out Woody's Fenders for a custom wooden option.
Photo by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.